Pre-Match Build Up: When the First Qualifying Round fixtures for the FA Vase were announced, this game stood out for me as the plum tie, as it would enable me to both take some long-overdue pictures of Maltby’s ground, and also to document Kinsley Boys first ever game in the competition. So for the second week running, I headed ‘down South’ the ten miles or so to Rotherham, followed by a short bus journey to neighbouring Maltby – notable itself as home to one of few remaining pits in the former thriving South Yorkshire Coalfield area.
Destination: Muglet Lane, Maltby, Rotherham, South Yorks, S66 7JQ.
Competition: FA Vase, First Qualifying Round
Programme: £1.50 (36 pages / 11 of adverts)
Weather: Fine, but with an intermittent awkward swirling wind
Directions: For vehicle owners, Muglet Lane has a medium-sized car park, with ample adjoining street parking also available. By public transport, the nearest rail station is Rotherham. From there, the buses are frequent, though it’s not the shortest of journeys, clocking in at around half an hour. Each of the numbers 1, 2 and 10 go to the crossroads of Muglet Lane/Tickhill Road (by the Queens Hotel pub – although this has recently closed), which is a five minute walk away down Muglet Lane, with the ground on your left opposite the Miners Welfare Club. Numbers 2 and 10 also go down Muglet Lane itself and stop next to the Miners Welfare, whereas the numer 1 just goes to the crossroads. Woth noting ticket-wise is that a South Yorkshire Day Tripper currently costs £6 and is valid for unlimited bus and train travel within South Yorkshire. So you can get a train from the likes of Sheffield or Doncaster, then a bus to and from Maltby all for £6.
Club Background: The original version of the club formed in 1916 (unusually during wartime), and disbanded in the mid-1960s, having played in the Yorkshire League as well as the Sheffield League and more local Rotherham League, before reforming again in 1970. It has since worked its way up via the Yorkshire League and winning the Sheffield Senior Cup in 1978, to its current home of the NCEL’s Premier Division. Recent seasons have seen the club generally finish around or just below mid-table, with 11th place being achieved last time out in 2010-11.
Off The Pitch: Maltby’s Muglet Lane home is an excellent venue for those of us fond of traditional non-league ‘Welfare Ground’-style venues. It has two old stands aside the halfway line – one of terracing and one with wooden bench seats – hard-standing round three sides of the pitch (with grass-standing at the remaining top end), a neighbouring cricket ground, and all-too-rare at this level – proper floodlight pylons rather than the more common ‘lights on sticks’ that most grounds tend to have nowadays. It does have a couple of drawbacks – namely the lack of enclosure on the cricket side, which means that it can take ages to retrieve the ball, and I reckon we must’ve only got the equivalent of 40 minutes each way today what with all the stoppages due to this (not helped by the minor gale that was blowing for large periods of the match). And also sadly the state of the pitch, which has got to be one of the bumpiest you’ll come across. Bar spending copious amounts of money on flattening and relaying it, there’s not much the club can do about this I guess, but it does take some getting used to and allows for more mis-controlled passes/mis-timed tackles than is usual in a game. The friendliness of the welcome is also typical of most non-league clubs in the region, and second-to-none in terms of customer service. In fact today, I was so busy chatting to local legend Lol Henson, that we both missed the first goal going in. You can read more about his amazing dedication to the club and recent award for over 50 years of service here: http://www.maltbymainfc.f9.co.uk/lifetime_achievement_award_for_lol.html
On The Pitch: Although Maltby made a good start to the season, beating the highly fancied Bridlington Town at home and then following this with two away draws, since then the club has hit a bad patch, having failed to score in any of their last four games and shipping six goals at home to Winterton Rangers in their last match. It was understandable then that there was an air of concerned anxiety among the home fans I spoke to before kick-off, with several players unavailability and the recent lack of goals being their main concerns. Today’s opponents, Kinsley Boys, play two steps lower down than Maltby in the Central Midlands League’s North Division, but are known for having a strong side, with the club hopeful of a promotion to the NCEL themselves in the near future. They would certainly be no pushover, and given Maltby’s recent form I would say there were no clear favourites today.
Both sides put in a high work rate this afternoon, which meant a close contest in all departments. As previously mentioned, I was busy gabbing when Kinsley took an early lead, but am told the goal came when a cross was deflected into the path of Stefan Burgiss, who promptly headed gratefully into the net from close range. Just before half-time though, Maltby managed what they had failed to do in over seven hours of football before today, and scored a goal, Scott Eshelby knocking home the equaliser (from what looked like an unauthodox ‘on the ground position’ in a goalmouth scramble) which sent the teams into the break all square. Opinions from the home crowd were now a bit more optinistic, with some predicting that Maltby might just snatch a win. Personally though I always felt that Kinsley were capable of getting at least a draw from the game, and in the second half again there was little to choose between the two sides. Maltby competed well in midfield but lacked that elusive touch or bit of invention in front of goal. Meanwhile, Kinsley were after more than just a draw, and managed to force the decisive moment just past the hour mark when they were awarded a penalty after a mis-timed challenge on the edge of the box by one of the Maltby lot. This was harsh on the homesters, as the photo below shows the ‘penalty’ incident, which was at least a foot outside the box. The referee correctly saw it as a foul, but from a distance away, wasn’t sure whether it was in or out of the penalty area. So he then let the linesman decide. However, in my view the linesman was at completely the wrong angle to judge with any certainty (being on the touchline just out of shot on the left of the picture and at 90 degrees to the relevant white line) and the old ‘if in doubt, don’t award it’ rule should apply. Kinsley geefully accepted the gift though, with Scott Collins having to cope with a delay while the ref dealt with the Maltby protests, then calmly placing a good spot-kick beyond the reach of the keeper to make it 2-1 to the away side. Towards the end, Maltby applied some pressure on the opposing goal, forcing a couple of corners and coming very close to a second equaliser on one occasion when a shot was deflected just wide with the Kinsley keeper nowhere near it. But Kinsley held out, and on the final whistle it was obvious how delighted they were to have ended their first ever game in this competition with a win. So overall then, the penalty decision was harsh on Maltby, though if it were a boxing match, I think Kinsley just shaded this game on points. Maltby will get a chance to visit Kinsley soon anyway, as they have been drawn away there in the First Round of the Sheffield Senior cup next month.
Post-Match Analysis: Bumpy pitch aside, Maltby is one of my (admittedly many) favourite grounds in the Yorkshire region, and oozes character with its proper floodlights/double-dose of Miners Welfare-style stands, and similar features. You’re always likley to find plenty of characters to chat to as well while you’re there. For some reason though, there doesn’t seem to be much existing blogger-type coverage of it knocking about on the internet – hence I have included a few more pictures than usual, in an attempt to encourage people to pay the club a visit. Everything that’s great about non-league is contained within Muglet Lane’s three-walls-and-a-cricket-pitch.
This one (above) reminds me of table football, where all your players’ legs move at once!